Fresh off her Tony award winning role as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, Lena Hall can now be found performing (through April 18th) cabaret style at the Café Carlyle. The venue’s producers allowed her to have free reign over her selections which allowed her to sing the songs she wanted to sing because they touched or inspired her as her backing band, Watt White on guitar, John Deley on keys, Lee Nadel on bass and her future brother-in-law Brian Fishler on drums, supported her. Her seventy minute set was fun and varied, with a bunch of the newer material probably going over the heads of some older folks in the crowd. She joked, “I’m doing very appropriate songs for this room. But you know, I’m Lena Hall so, I do what I want.” to audience applause and laughter.
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I’ve seen the Indiana four-piece Houndmouth four times in about two years and, over that period, they have put out their two albums, 2013’s debut From the Hills Below the City which features their breakout single “Penitentiary” and their latest, Little Neon Limelight, which features the single “Sedona”. Every time I’ve seen them, the band has put on a fun, loose show that is made all the more engaging because each member of the band, guitarist Matt Myers, bassist Zak Appleby, keyboardist Katie Toupin and drummer Shane Cody, has a genuine grin spread across his or her face as they mix up instruments and sing in harmony.
It’s hard to believe that the Alt-J boys went from playing the tiny Mercury Lounge to the vast arena of Madison Square Garden in just three years of playing gigs in New York. Certainly a Mercury Prize win didn’t hurt. The English lads had recently played at the Beacon Theater but New Yorkers’ demand wasn’t satiated, as their sold-out gig can attest to. While in town, Alt-J also appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform “Every Other Freckle” off their second album, 2014’s This is All Yours. Lead singer Joe Newman and his bandmates, Thom Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Cameron Knight led the audience through multiple sing-alongs, like on fan favorites “Tessellate”. While the band didn’t provide a dramatic performance, the alternating moody smoke that enveloped them in the darkness or the strong lights buoyed their distinct electronic sound throughout the night. Besides, the crowd didn’t need action on stage as they didn’t shy from dancing or singing along and making the night their own. The set didn’t last more than 80 minutes but it covered a lot of both their albums, ending with “Breezeblocks” from their debut An Awesome Wave.
Björk, along with collaborator Arca, is currently nearing the end of a series of shows in New York City in support of her latest album, Vulnicura. After a couple of nights at Carnegie Hall and a couple at the new Brooklyn venue King’s Theater, Björk will wrap up the mini-residency at NY City Center (two performances remain). So far, every night has featured almost the entirety of Björk’s latest album Vulnicura, a breakup record, with the addition of the Alarm Will Sound string ensemble and Manu Delago on percussion. Although I had never seen Björk before, I know she’s a cutting edge artist on many levels—visually, fashionably, sonically. So it was no surprise to see some of her fans have a unique fashion sense of their own. Of course, their attire couldn’t be topped by Björk’s own—she had donned a unique spiky headdress from designer Maiko Takeda for the first half of her performance.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne has been touring pretty much constantly since the summer in support of his breakthrough self-titled debut album, propelled by lead single “Take Me to Church” (that song with all those “amens”). His current string of US dates climaxed with a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, where Hozier humbly thanked everyone in his band, touring crew and the audience for all the work and dedication. The front row was packed with screaming young female fans but the sold-out venue was packed with wild fans of all ages, proof that Hozier has a huge following. In fact, the venue appeared pretty full already before the opener, George Ezra, who is also experiencing a quick-rising music career, even took stage. Ezra explained how he created his debut album Wanted on Voyage while trekking across Europe with a Eurail pass. That story helped explain some of his song titles, like “Barcelona” or for his biggest song, “Budapest”. His brief set was very well received by the crowd and he’s someone I would check out again (he has a solo headlining tour beginning in April).